Iraq Vet Faces Penalty for Protesting War
Adam Kokesh joined the Marines in 1999.
He served as a Marine sergeant in Fallujah and was given an honorable discharge last November, remaining in the Individual Ready Reserve until his time was up, which is on June 18.
Now Kokesh is in trouble.
A member of Iraq Veterans Against the war, Kokesh went to DC for an anti-war rally in March wearing his uniform, though he had removed his nametag and other insignia.
After The Washington Post identified him in a photo, his superiors contacted him, alleging that he violated a military rule by wearing his uniform without authorization.
Kokesh says the Marines are trying to deprive veterans and members of the Reserve of their free speech rights.
“Those who have risked their lives to defend the rights of all Americans have a special claim to those rights when they have completed their service,” he wrote in a letter to the prosecuting attorneys.
Kokesh added: “Is the Marine Corps attempting to strip away those rights from the hundreds of thousands in the inactive reserves?”
Kokesh accused the Marine prosecutors of “preventing the American public from hearing the truth about Iraq by intimidating those who would disagree with you from speaking out.” If they are trying to “silence the voices of those whose experiences are most relevant in the most pressing debate before the nation,” they should “kindly, go f***” themselves, he wrote.
On Monday, Kokesh faces an administrative hearing in Kansas City, Missouri, with the Marines threatening to change his discharge status from honorable to “other than honorable.”
“The reason for the hearing to see if there were violations of the uniform regulations and disrespect to a commissioned officer,” Master Sergeant Ronald Spencer says. “The board is not convening about free speech. He has the right to freedom of speech. Everyone does. It deals with possible violation of the uniform regulations and with his insubordination to a superior officer.”
Spencer says that after the hearing, the administrative board will meet and then give a recommendation to the commander. “It can take up to two weeks,” he says.
If Kokesh gets a “less than honorable discharge,” he “could lose some health benefits and be forced to repay about $10,800 he received to obtain his undergraduate degree on the GI Bill,” the AP reports.
Update: At the administrative hearing on June 4, the three-member panel recommended that Kokesh be given a “general discharge,” which is one step lower than an “honorable discharge” but better than a “less than honorable discharge.”
Kokesh vowed to fight the downgrade. “I’m standing on principle, and we’re going to contest this on principle,” he said. Kokesh, who wore an Iraq Veterans Against the War T-shirt, decried what he called the “tactics of intimidation” that the Marines were using.
According to Reuters, Kokesh “was asked during the hearing if he was a ‘card-carrying member’ of the Iraq Veterans Against the War, what membership entailed, and if he voted in the last Presidential election.”
On June 5, Kokesh’s lawyer petitioned the Marines for a new hearing.
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